Who Are the Main Contenders for the Men’s Australian Open
January 14, 2017
2016 had the bearings of a transitional year in men’s tennis, as Andy Murray enjoyed a superb second half to the year and superseded Novak Djokovic as world number one. After securing his second Wimbledon title and Olympic gold in the summer, Murray beat the Serb at the 02 Arena in November to claim his inaugural ATP Tour success and rise to the summit of the game.
With the 2017 season already underway, the question that remains is whether Murray can continue his form and hold on to his status as the world’s best player. The Scot will also be focused on adding to his Grand Slam haul, with the Australian Open first up in 2017 and scheduled to commence on 18th January.
Murray is Favourite for the Australian Open, but Who are the Other Contenders?
Interestingly, Murray is only the joint Australian Open favourite at present, but this says more about his history in the tournament than it does his current form. It also underlines the dominance of Djokovic at the event, with the Serb having won the title on no less than six occasions and beaten Murray in four finals to date. This gives Djokovic equal billing in the eyes of bookmakers, while the fact that the Serb also managed to reach last September’s U.S. Open Final without being at his dominant best also highlights his unique competitive edge.
If Murray (who has now lost in five Australian Open finals in total) and the record-equalling Djokovic will lead the charge in Melbourne, the enigmatic Stan Wawrinka will follow closely behind. After all, the talented and occasionally unplayable Swiss is one of only two players other than Djokovic to lift the Australian Open since 2007, having triumphed over Rafael Nadal in 2014. Now ranked at number four in the world and empowered by his stunning U.S. Open victory against Djokovic last year, Wawrinka is well-placed to chase a fourth Grand Slam.
There are also suggestions that 2017 could represent a breakthrough year for 25-year old Milos Raonic. The Canadian reached his first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon last year, and while he may have lost in three sets to Murray he has risen to third in the world and has the type of big-serving game that can cause problems on every surface. This years’ Australian Open will also see the comeback of 18-times Slam winner Roger Federer from injury, with the 35-year old confident that he still has the pedigree and the hunger to win at least one more major title.
While this tournament may have come too soon for the 16th ranked Swiss, there is no doubt that he still has the game to beat anybody on his day.
Who Will Prevail in Melbourne?
Japan’s Kei Nishikori and former U.S. Open Marian Cilic (ranked fifth and sixth in the world respectively) should compete deep into the tournament, while the 2009 winner Rafael Nadal is also hungry to start 2017 with a bang after returning to full fitness. Despite this, form and history tells us that either Murray or Djokovic are likely to emerge victorious in Melbourne, while it may be argued that the Scot may never have a better chance of winning a title that has continued to elude him.